Article by Leo Chen
So this is it, 8 close-toed boots, just numbers, minimal opinions from the human behind the keyboard. Hop on down to the bottom if you just want to see the numbers in a sortable clickable table, but please read on through to see how we tested each boot, and why our tests aren’t perfect. We also put up a page for each boot with the relevant stats, detailed pictures and links to buy them through our Amazon affiliate account (you know, if you want to support Kite Scoop.)
Boots. If you had told me 12 months ago that my wakeboard boot collection in my garage would outnumber the shoes in my girlfriend’s closet, well I’d laugh at you and tell you I didn’t have a girlfriend. But hey.. here we are and I’ve got more boots than my girl’s got Uggs. I got more boots in my garage than I even knew existed. I got so many, I could color coordinate my binding choice with the shirt I have on, on any given day. Man, the things I do for you guys.
All joking aside, I’ve managed to get some pretty cool results thanks to this boot collection. Between dropping a buttload of cash and begging, I managed to grab two close toed 2014 boots from every major manufacturer of wakeboard bindings. I’ve put them all through a series of tests that I feel like will help you out when it comes time to decide on what you’re going to replace your old kicks with.
So first, let’s go over testing process. We felt like there were 5 main properties to boots that influences a customer: Fit, Price, Weight, Flex and Appearance.
Now, fit and appearance, that’s subjective. I got tiny narrow Asian feet, but one of my kiting buds has these monstrous wide German feet. While I might love the fit of a certain shoe, that will not mean that everyone else will. Same goes with appearances, I don’t like loud bright green/blue things strapped to my feet *cough* Ronix Franks *cough*, however some people are ok with blinding half the beach when they throw down an S-bend. I don’t judge.
But, price, weight and flex? I could test those. So price is pretty straightforward but weight and flex, let’s go over that in a bit more detail.
So, does weight really matter? Well that’s debatable, it’s really up to personal preference. When you increase the weight of your boots you will increase the rotational inertia during any rotations, which tends to slow down your rotations which will definitely give you some bonus style points. However, every gram that you tack on is another gram that you’re going to have to haul back upwind when the wind is dying. So it’s really up to your priorities. Some people want the lightest possible setup underneath their feet, some people don’t care.
But say you did care about weight, well there’s another wrinkle to consider. Sure one set of boots might be the lightest when they’re dry.. but what happens when you soak them in water for a while? So we tested both dry weight and wet weight. We massed out the boots when they were dry and then we massed them out again after soaking them in water for five minutes. Kind of a best case scenario, worst case scenario rundown.
Flex is another thing that comes down to personal preference. Having a nice firm support structure around your ankles allows you to really bear down and hold down power, however having a bit of flexibility in that joint will allow you to tweak out tricks and really press on features.
So we tested flex by building our own test jig. Got a wooden shoe stretcher with a flexible ankle hinge, drilled in a long wooden dowel and attached a fixed mass to the top of the rod. We then measured the angle of deflection of this rod when put in a boot. Inward and outward flex is along the lateral direction. So if you are looking at a right boot, inward flex is flex towards the left and outward flex is flex towards the right.
Why our tests aren’t perfect
I want you to look at the numbers we give you as a guideline. Why? Well our tests are not perfect. I want to be as honest as possible, Kite Scoop readers deserve nothing less than that. Our tests are not perfect, especially the flex test. Now materials fatigue over time, you’ll probably notice that your boots get quite a bit more floppy as the season wears on. Our flex tests were on all new boots. Certain brands might end up wearing down much faster than others. Also, we tested at one particular ankle height, and ankle heights vary. Flex also does not necessarily scale in a linear fashion as force increases.
There are a lot of things I wish we could’ve done. I wish I could’ve gone out, ridden all the boots into the ground and charted flex changes as the boots broke in. I wish we could’ve hooked it up to test various ankle heights. However, lack of resources and time means this is as good as it gets, for now. So use our numbers as a guideline. Go out, demo these products, try them on, then make your decision.
Ronix (Ronix did not have a review budget for kitesurfing so I bought these, at a discount)
Hyperlite (Hyperlite was awesome enough to provide a set of Systems and the Process for free, I purchased the Marek boots at a discount from a local shop)
Slingshot (Slingshot very kindly provided both the RAD and KTV for free)
Liquid Force (LF were super stoked about our review and provided both the Ultra CT and Synergy for free)
Photos on this page courtesy taken by Bryant Truong of The Urbaners